Ball One – Tykes top as Royal London Cup bursts into life
Reminding me a little of that scene in Alien, the Royal London One Day Cup burst back into life after five weeks of slumber with a slew of midweek matches. Yorkshire went top of the North Group with two wins in a week, the first a 191 runs annihilation of Leicestershire and the second a well-managed chase of 252 to defeat Nottinghamshire. Travis Head (175) and Jack Leaning (131*) put Leicestershire’s bowlers to the sword with a third wicket stand of 274, but, cricket being cricket, they both got ducks three days later. What kind of old game is it?
Ball Two – Somerset’s old boys school Glamorgan and Middlesex
In the South Group, two wins in a week for Somerset saw them join Essex at the top of the table. Weight of runs from the top order played a big part in both victories, Somerset posting 200 in each innings with only three wickets down. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as there’s plenty of experience in a quintet of wise old foxes: Myburgh (35); Allenby (33); Trego (35); Jayawardene (39) and Hildreth (31). Who said this one day stuff was a young man’s game?
Ball Three – Stoneman and MacLeod rock solid and Durham march on
In the T20 Blast North Group, Durham needed to win to squeeze Lancashire out of a quarter-final slot and that’s exactly what they did, comfortably disposing of Derbyshire – who would have qualified themselves had they won. Paul Collingwood’s men were indebted to Mark Stoneman and Scotland’s Calum MacLeod who put on 141 in 13.4 overs, scoring over 90% of their team’s runs off the bat. Derbyshire never got the asking rate below ten, with Scott Borthwick again showing decent bowling chops with three wickets. With Stoneman departing at the end of the season and rumblings about others, Durham’s 2016 season is holding together remarkably well – something for which the skipper should take great credit.
Ball Four – Ashar Zaidi buries Middlesex’s bowling
In the South Group, Essex were grateful for the point that arrived with Friday’s rain after Glamorgan had posted a stiff target of 185 at Chelmsford. If that were the margin that separated them from fifth place Surrey and secured a quarter-final berth, the real work had been done the previous evening at Lord’s, where the target was a seemingly straightforward 127 off 16. It looked anything but that when captain, Ravi Bopara, was run out with 73 required off 7.1 overs. Enter the squat, almost square figure of Ashar Zaidi, who likes nothing more than being given the job of swinging from the hip and the hell with the consequences. From a solid base (some would say very solid indeed), bat is put to ball and the ball goes a long way. Half an hour later, Zaidi had 59* from 24 and Essex had a foothold in the quarter-finals. I guess you have to have some serious power if Ryan ten Doeschate is held back to knock it around at the death.
Ball Five – Ian Bell takes his toll on county attacks.
As the T20 Blast Group stage concludes (after 14 matches – don’t ask), gnarled Aussie pro Michael Klinger sits top of the runs charts with 530 for Gloucestershire with team mate, the unheralded Ian Cockbain, second on 499. (I am obliged to point out that I once played against “young” Cockbain’s grandfather, the terrifying Ron of Bootle CC back in the 70s). But who’s that in fourth spot, neither an overseas pro on the franchise circuit, nor a thrusting young Englishman, and not even a bit gnarly – it’s Ian Bell! The classy ex-England man scored 489 runs at 41 with a decent strike rate of 131 too – not at all bad in anyone’s reck0ning. It seems somehow appropriate that, despite his effort, Warwickshire missed out on a quarter-final by one point.
Ball Six – Benny Howell – top cat with the ball
It’s a Gloucestershire man on top of the bowling ladder too, but who would have guessed his identity… wait for it… Benny Howell! A classic bits-and-pieces man, Benny is ultra-competitive and thinks very hard about his bowling: 23 wickets at 15 and a truly remarkable economy rate of 6.7 are not numbers you get by simply whanging it down there. Second on the wicket-taking list is Graham Napier and fifth Tim Bresnan – a couple of wily campaigners if ever there were two. Field restrictions, the wides interpretation and big bats can make white ball cricket look like too much of a batsmen’s game, but nous with the ball can still go a long way.